Summer vacation is right around the corner for most of us. Plans for family vacations, lounging poolside, and hitting the amusement parks are fun to anticipate together as a family. However, the change from a regimented school-year routine to the less-structured schedule of summer break can be quite overwhelming and unsettling for many adopted kids who have been abused or neglected or come from “hard places.”
At the root of that feeling of “overwhelm” is often fear of change or insecurity about where he or she fits in the new routine.
Whether your child struggles with sensory challenges, prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs, or attachment issues there are a few important things you can do to prepare your family for the change in routine. These things can also help you understand their struggles more clearly and help you manage everyone’s expectations a little more effectively. I’ve found these tips to be very helpful in setting us up for a great few months of fun together, making great memories, and refreshing us, with minimal drama in the mix.
1. Change is Hard
Acknowledge that any change, even for something as happy as SUMMER BREAK! is hard for many kids. Consider offering a very tangible ending point of the school-year schedule before heading into the new routine. For example, I give a “hiatus” from any schedule for a couple of days before I introduce the new summer schedule. Two or three days of sleeping in, swimming whenever we feel like it, lunches (sometimes dinners too) with a favorite movie if it’s rainy, and even some staying up extra late. Never plan dentist appointments in those first three days. Just trust me on that one.
2. Set New Routine
Be very intentional about setting a new routine. Even if it’s a more laid-back sort of schedule, a new routine will provide a sense of security and boundary for your kids who struggle with change. Communicate clearly, in advance, that you are doing so and make sure that you give time and grace to find your new groove. For younger children, post a picture schedule for them to follow that is revised from their school year schedule. In setting the new routine, be very intentional to also structure it simply, with plenty of downtime for your kids. Surviving the summer with adopted kids from hard places means healthy doses of mental and emotional downtime, even if it’s “scheduled” downtime!
3. Create Traditions
Build events into that routine that your child(ren) can count on. The kids need to be able to count on some favorites that reinforce security and predictability. If you are a family of readers, schedule a “library day” for the same day of each week. Regular play dates, Family Fun Nights, picnics in the park – get ideas from your kids for what they’d like to do weekly. The added bonus is that giving them a voice will speak love to them and send the message that they can count on you to meet their needs.
4. Buddy Up!
A buddy system is another tool that works well for building trust and reinforcing security. This is especially true for the days when activities are a bit unpredictable. Think of it as an added layer of emotional safety for your kid who struggles. If you have a wide range of ages in your home, consider partnering up an older kid with a younger one. Pair them up for specific activities, especially on days when you might be trying something new or going somewhere special. Giving your little ones a “safe person” in addition to Mom or Dad increases security amid the different experiences or environments. It’s also a sneaky way to reinforce teamwork and cooperation between siblings.
5. Use What You Already Know
Finally, use what you already know to drive it all! You likely already know what drives your kid to succeed. You’ve figured out what makes your household run peacefully and your kids grow in character. Decide now that this summer you can reinforce those things in fun ways. Look for opportunities to really make this summer break work FOR you. Offering the motivation to pursue what your child loves can also help you re-frame difficulties like sensory challenges or behavior struggles into opportunities for you and your child to taste success together. Honing in on what you know makes them feel successful is one of the keys to surviving the summer with your adopted kids from hard places.
By the end of the school year, most of us are really looking forward to the change in routine. While the change will be good for us all, it’s also important to remember that even great changes can be hard for our kids. Preparing ways to manage those transitions well and having a plan in place to do that can help you do MORE than just survive the summer together. It can help you thrive!
We would love to hear about the things you do to make your change of routine more manageable for your family!
Image credit: atacamaki